We’ve all been there — headaches, cramps, bloating and breakouts that time themselves perfectly before a big event. According to a study from BioMed Central, an estimated 90 percent of women experience some kind of premenstrual symptom. While doctors view certain symptoms as indicators of a healthy reproductive system, it’s hard to really see it that way when you’re in a fetal position with cramps, trying to snap out of an awful mood and feeling a lot like those elevator doors from The Shining.
Since there is no miracle cure to get rid of every symptom faced each month, start with a divide-and-conquer approach, treating the most severe first and reducing their occurrence through these solutions for a happier time of the month.
Why: Since our uterus produces chemicals called “prostaglandins,” which help shed tissue during menstruation, if there’s a significant build-up of these fatty acids, the uterus reacts by squeezing too hard and causing major discomfort.
Try: To relieve cramping, doctors recommend an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen. If you want to go the natural route, either avoid red meat and dairy, which are very reactive and inflammatory, or try taking calcium or magnesium supplements during your period to relax your nervous system and muscles. Deal with the stress head-on by taking a warm bath, getting a massage, meditating or trying out yoga.
Headaches and Migraines
Why: When you suffer from a headache or migraine a week before your period, it’s likely related to premenstrual irritability due to the sudden drop of estrogen that prompts a spasm of blood vessels in your head.
Try: While over-the-counter painkillers or prescription migraine medication feels like the first choice for many, doctors recommend trying the birth control method to eliminate or reduce your periods. If that’s not an option you like, cleaning up your diet can help if you reduce animal fats, salt, alcohol and caffeine, along with refined sugar, flour and processed foods.
Bloating and Breakouts
Why: Though it’s unclear by doctors as to why PMS causes severe bloating and acne, many believe the major offender is junk food. Sorry Womanistas, but those candy bars and bottles of pop that we reach for during cravings have quite an effect on us since our digestive system slows down slightly during the second half of our cycle.
Try: Incorporate more fiber and complex carbs into your diet, like whole grains to help curb sugar cravings and healthy fats, which provide appropriate nutrients during menstruation. A good multivitamin is helpful to take all month long, specifically vitamin B6, which is one of the only vitamins to relieve bloating, acting as a mild diuretic.
Why: Hormonal changes in the body have a profound effect on serotonin levels, which is the chemical responsible for regulating our brain chemistry and mood. If serotonin drops, it could lead to bouts of irritability, sadness, and lethargy for up to two weeks before your period.
Try: Low blood sugar can worsen your mood, so try balancing them by incorporating more protein or fiber, and eat evenly throughout the day without skipping meals. Fitness is also an important part of hormonal balance, so aim for exercising about four to five times a week, for 30 minutes each time.